In honor of all those end-of-year “best of” roundups (and I’ve contributed a lengthy list of overseas ones to Eat Your Book’s annual roundup!), here are MY top picks for 2014. This year has been the “year of the British cookbook” in my house; many of these titles are from the UK but readily available in the US. Although I’ve had the chance to read and / or review many of this year’s anticipated US releases, the top picks below are the ones that really appealed to me. Note that many of these titles are UK editions and measurements are in metric only; I’ve marked these in bold after the title.
If you decide to purchase one or more of these stellar books, please use the links below as this will credit my Amazon Associates account. Thanks and happy cookbooking!
Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East and Beyond (US Edition) Sabrina Ghayour has been raking in accolades for her “Persiana,” which was recently named Observer Food Monthly’s Cookbook of the Year. My version of heaven would be endless tables of mezze, and “Persiana” provides them in spades, from baghala ghatogh (fava beans with garlic, dill and eggs) and dips to fluffy homemade breads, roasts and grills, and refreshing salads like the radish, cucumber and red onion salad with mint and orange blossom dressing and fig and green bean salad with date molasses and toasted almonds. Vegetarians will delight in dishes like cumin-roasted carrots with honey-lemon dressing and goat cheese, butternut squash with pistachio, pesto, feta and pomegranate seeds, and za’atar roasted squash with spiced yogurt and pickled chilies. As I am a baker at heart, I particularly loved Sabrina’s lighter take on desserts, including a spiced carrot, pistachio and almond cake with rosewater cream, cinnamon and citrus almond pastry cigars, my all-time favorite, syrup-poached apricots with walnuts and clotted cream, and pistachio, rose, and raspberry madeleines. Ingredient lists are straightforward and I appreciate that the editors included the original metric measurements in addition to volume measurements. Gorgeous photography will inspire you to cook your way through the entire book.
Comptoir Libanais Express (Tony Kitous and Dan Lepard) (UK edition – metric) This second cookery book from London-based Le Comptoir Libanais focuses on speedy, healthful veggie-friendly dishes like a spiced mushroom and pine nut omelette, a hot halloumi pilaf with broad beans, peas, and herbs, vegetarian Comptoir lasagna made with chili, yogurt, feta and tahini, za’atar and chili devilled eggs, saffron, butternut, and red pepper pilaf, and lemon-marinated halloumi in pita. Carnivores are also amply represented; whether a mixed grill, skewered lamb and pepper wrap, grilled fish, burger, or fried chicken, you’re sure to find something that delights. Desserts include a rose tea-infused compote, pistachio and almond cake, and baklava-style nut pastries.The graphic layout is particularly impressive and fun to cook from; you’ll find loads of ingredient-specific tips and tricks. And a large cocktail and drink section doesn’t hurt; spiced pomegranate and yogurt smoothie or Lebanese spiced hot chocolate, anyone?
Eat Istanbul: A Journey to the Heart of Turkish Cuisine“ (Andy Harris and David Loftus). (UK edition – metric) This gorgeous ode to Istanbul’s timeless cuisine recalls Rebecca Seal’s “Istanbul” in its photo-heavy layout and simple, straightforward mezze that can be assembled at a moment’s notice. From the embossed cover to the vibrant street scenes and mouthwatering food, this is a visual delight. Predictably, mezze star prominently, particularly yogurt-based dips and salads, pide, sigara boregi, along with some stellar stuffed vegetables, kebabs, lamb and seafood. Sweets include apricots with clotted cream and walnuts, a pistachio baklava, orange and filo cake, and a Turkish bread and apple pudding. A gorgeous illustrated glossary rounds out the book. The next best thing to a plane ticket to Turkey, the city is as much a star as the food. I loved that every photo and restaurant mentioned also has a address listed, so you could theoretically use this as a guidebook on your next trip to Istanbul!
A Change of Appetite (Diana Henry) (US Edition) Diana Henry’s latest book is a cross between Middle Eastern and Asian influences and a focus on healthy eating through simple seasonal preparations. From light-as-air salads to heartier compositions like goat cheese and cherry salad with almond and basil gremolata, whitefish, saffron, and dill couscous pilaf, and roasted pumpkin, labneh, walnut gremolata, and pomegranates to simple comfort foods like Turkish poached eggs with spinach and yogurt and roasted tomatoes and lentils with dukka-crumbled eggs, you’ll find a wealth of ideas and international inspirations (several Indian, Japanese, Persian, etc. menus are included). Subtle spicing and sometimes unexpected flavor and texture combos bring to mind Yotam Ottolenghi’s fantastic “Plenty,” and as his blurb on the cover can attest, “Everything Diana Henry cooks I want to eat.” Fans of Ottolenghi and my other top picks “Persiana,” “Comptoir Express” and “Eat Istanbul” will absolutely want this for their collection.
Spices and Seasons (Rinku Bhattacharya) “Spices and Seasons” is an absolute must-own for anyone who enjoys Indian food or is simply looking for simple, healthful ways to make the most of an abundance of garden vegetables or a CSA box. Rinku’s emphasis on fresh, local ingredients and sustainability pair beautifully with Indian spices and simple, nourishing preparations that will delight family and friends. Each recipe is prefaced with a brief introduction to its region, family history, and handy tips that will ensure a great result every time. I loved the tandoori spice roasted baby potatoes with mint, broccoli with toasted cashew nuts, the autumn dishes for shrimp in a mango basil sauce and salmon with a blood orange and tamarind glaze, and rich coconut curries. In addition to being very suitable for vegetarians and pescetarians (there are many meat-free options and appealing seafood recipes), there is a gluten-free and vegan/vegetarian index and all recipes are also marked as vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free. (see my full review here)
Simply Italian: Cooking at Home with the Chiappa Sisters (UK edition – metric) The Chiappas (Michela, Emanuela, and Romina) are three Welsh-Italian sisters with a popular Channel Four TV show, Simple Italian. In their first cookbook, they include all the recipes featured on their Channel Four show, from quick and easy appetizers to a stellar guide to pasta that is worth the cost of the book. Beginning with multicolored doughs and a gluten-free basic egg pasta option, you’ll find fabulous ideas for your newfound pasta making skills, including silhouette pasta with herbs, ravioli with an oozy egg, smoked salmon and griddled asparagus, veg and meat lasagnas, pasta nests (my new go-to is the ricotta, chili, lemon and grilled vegetable nests), and gnocchi. Mains include fillet steak wrapped in pancetta and rosemary, speedy chicken with salty Parma ham and fresh sage, pork medallions with onion, apple and cider, and several vegetarian-friendly dishes like an aubergine and mozzarella bake and classic pancakes stuffed with spinach and ricotta. There are plenty of tempting veggies as well, along with soups and salads. Desserts range from poached fruit to tiramisu, layered mocha torte, and a panetonne pudding. There are lots of cultural notes, photos, and family stories interwoven into the recipes. Engaging and down-to-earth, I found the Chiappa sisters to be delightful ambassadors for “Italian flavor, British style” and much preferred this to this year’s (over)hyped “Extra Virgin.”
It’s All Greek To Me Debbie Matenopoulos’s debut cookbook is the first I ever won in a cookbook giveaway, so it wins for sheer sentimental value alone 🙂 A longtime fan of Greek cuisine, I loved the simple, straightforward preparation and presentations here; the first dish I tried was the spanakopita, and it was every bit as amazing as the one I had in NYC this summer. I’ve made several recipes from this and all turned out fabulously. I loved that many of Debbie’s recipes offer healthier alternatives (and some have vegan options), and that she got her large Greek family involved in the writing, testing and tweaking of these recipes to make them healthier. Gorgeous photos of Greece and locals enjoying the good life make this fun to cook from – I had the soundtrack to “Never On Sunday” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” playing as I cooked. Opa!
Itsu the cookbook (Julian Metcalfe). (US edition) Based on the London chain of the same name, Itsu focuses on a fresh, low-fat, low-cal menu strongly influenced by Japan. Every dish has calories listed (all recipes are 300 calories or less) and takes 30 minutes or less to make, making it perfect for those times when you don’t really feel like cooking but want something quick and nutritious. The detox soup is a new favorite (broth with veggies, tofu, and wakame), as is the baked salmon in miso, Itsu’s special salad, and classic chocolate mousse infused with fresh ginger and mirin. In Itsu’s words, “An eat beautiful menu…healthy, butterfly light, green and good for you.”
Shojin Ryori: The Art Of Japanese Vegetarian Cuisine (Danny Chu) I was thrilled to see that there was a new release coming out that focused on shojin ryori, Japan’s vegan Buddhist cuisine that is built around five flavors (salty, sweet, sour, bitter, spicy), five colors (red, white, black, green, and yellow) and five cooking methods (frying, boiling, preparation in hot oil, steaming and usage of fresh products). Danny actually studied shojin ryori in Japan before returning to Singapore to start Enso Kitchen, where he prepares shojin ryori meals and teaches cooking classes. The recipes contained in the book are simple, although many call for very specific Japanese vegetables and products that may be difficult (if not impossible) to obtain locally. Beautiful photography makes this an excellent introduction to this healthy, beautiful cuisine. There are very few books in shojin ryori available in English (I am personally not a fan of “The Enlightened Kitchen”); I also recommend Elizabeth Andoh’s excellent Kansha (which is based on the principles of shojin ryori and is totally vegan) and the out-of-print benchmark Good Food from a Japanese Temple by Soei Yoneda (the book was also printed in paperback as The Heart of Zen Cuisine, but is the same text; it is likely cheaper to get the paperback.)
Made in Quebec Julian Armstrong has written about food for the Montreal Gazette for more than five decades. As soon as I heard about this book, I knew it was the one for me; I studied abroad for two summers in a French immersion program at Universite Laval in Quebec City and majored in French with an emphasis on Quebec Studies, so La Belle Province has a huge place in my heart. Quebec is a huge land area with great diversity in its landscape and people; some regions are famous for certain products (the nickname “bleuets,” blueberries, is given to people from the Lac-St-Jean area as they grow large amounts of the fruit). Quebec also produces many excellent raw milk cheeses (which are under strict control in other provinces) and maple syrup. Its culinary heritage is strongly influenced by hearty French cuisine preferred by trappers and fur traders. “Made in Quebec” is the author’s second cookbook focusing on the cuisine of Quebec; here she spent several years interviewing cheese makers, mushroom foragers, chefs and farmers, salt cod fishermen, fruit scientists and growers. The book is divided by season and include both staples (poutine, tourtière, tarte au sucre, pate chinois) and modern interpretations of traditional flavours. I loved the simple, delicious vegetarian options like the gorgeous Tarte aux tomates confites au sirop d’érable et cru du clocher (Tomato Tarts with Maple Syrup) on the cover; in addition to many lamb and pork dishes, there are many fish- and veggie-based dishes to enjoy. The desserts in particular are spectacular.
Marmalade: A Bittersweet Cookbook (Sarah Randell) (UK edition – metric) Could anything be more quintessentially British than marmalade? This delightful cookbook is like two books in one: the first half includes numerous variations on marmalade, including quince, passion fruit, lavender, blood orange and kumquat, while the recipes (gathered from top chefs and authors) make ample use of your newfound marmalade-making prowess. Recipes include gooey marmalade, pecan and cardamom buns, Manchego fritters with chicory orange, olives, and a Seville orange dressing, marmalade, ginger and Seville orange ice cream, and chocolate, apricot and marmalade muffins. A US edition is scheduled to be released in June 2015.
Slow Cooked: 200 exciting, new recipes for your slow cooker (Miss South) (UK edition – metric) This delightful British cookery book focuses on dusting off the slow cooker to make some wonderfully diverse feasts, including homemade dulce de leche, steamed puddings, buckwheat, cauliflower and tahini salad, braciole, garlicky tahini chicken, rosemary, garlic, and lemon butter beans, potato and olive stew with preserved lemons. As this is a British book, this also means a generous chapter of curries. I’m particularly looking forward to trying out the chapter on breads, including cinnamon-spiced buns and cream cheese brownies. And what would any proper British book be without a chapter devoted to puddings? From stout-soaked Christmas pudding and cherry Bakewell pudding to compotes and crème caramel, you’ll be sure to find the perfect ending to your meal. Now I only regret that I do not live in the UK so I can purchase one of these gorgeous UK-made slow cookers.
Monday Morning Cooking Club: The Feast Goes On (US Edition) The Monday Morning Cooking Club is a sisterhood of six friends who have met together every Monday since 2006 to cook together. The six are based in Sydney, but bring with them a wide variety of recipes spanning the globe. At first, their goal was to compile a cookbook to raise money for charity, but it soon became a quest to compile the best recipes from Sydney’s best Jewish cooks.Their first cookbook Monday Morning Cooking Club was released in 2010, and “The Feast Goes On” follows largely the same format and is the perfect complement to the first volume, this time expanding the search for recipes to all corners of Australia and beyond. Recipes are divided into Lunchtime, Everyday, Comfort, Feasting, Fressing, and Tradition. Each section features a wide range of culinary influence and the (family) story behind each recipe; you’ll find flavors from every corner of the Diaspora, including Middle Eastern salads and pastries, Greek meatballs, Asian-inspired fish, stuffed cabbage rolls, Hungarian favorites like rakott krumpli and goulash, Central Asian dips, and elegant European pastries next to more familiar Ashkenzi favorites (gefilte fish, cholent, blintzes, tzimmes). In the words of the MMCC girls, “may you and your friends and family feel nurtured, nourished and loved just from the eating. May our stories inspire, engage and move you, and give you a unique insight into our extraordinary community.” (see my full review here)
Vegetables / vegetarian
Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts (Aglaia Kremezi) I recently had the pleasure of reviewing this for Mediterranean Living (where I am a contributing reviewer); “Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts” brings together the very best of ancient Mediterranean foodways with a focus on seasonal produce; no fake soy “meats” to be found. Along the way, Aglaia imparts many fascinating stories and origins of ingredients and techniques common to Mediterranean cuisines, and the stunning photography by Penny De Los Santos captures fresh produce, ingredients and dishes in a series of gorgeous still lifes. The diverse Mediterranean vegetarian (and vegan) dishes featured within are sure to delight even the pickiest eater or avowed carnivore. See my full writeup over at Mediterranean Living.
New Feast: Modern Middle Eastern Vegetarian (US edition) (Greg and Lucy Malouf) Hot on the heels of Yotam Ottolenghi and Diana Henry bringing sexy back where veggies are concerned, the Maloufs (“Turquoise,” “Saraban,” “Moorish”), offer up their first strictly vegetarian Middle Eastern offering, and the results are gorgeous. From the oversized format and gold-embossed pomegranates on the cover to the tempting full-color glamour shots, you’ll find dozens of delicious mezze, savoury pastries, raw and cooked vegetable salads, pilafs, stuffed veggies, and ices, pastries, and desserts. The flavor combos really shine; from apricot-cardamom butter (try it with the Turkish milk rolls!), lemony lentil soup with saffron-scrambled eggs, hazelnut falafel and tahini-whipped crème fraiche to goat’s cheese dumplings with fresh and dried mint and a bitter chocolate-hazelnut cake with candied grapefruit, fans of “Plenty” and Ottolenghi will feel right at home. The sample menus are a fantastic resource, including suggestions for high tea, seasonal dinners, working lunches and grand celebrations alike. This is one of those gorgeous books where you just want to dive in and never surface!
Salmagundi (Sally Butcher) (US edition) A longtime fan of Ms. Butcher’s (I also own her Veggiestan), I did not think it was possible to love her work even more than I already did (I was wrong!!). Salmagundi collects a wealth of original salad ideas with marked international influence, from Asian and Middle Eastern influences to Bavarian potato salad, Greek and Italian bean salads, seafood and cheese-based salads to exotic fruit salads. Some are marked as super healthy, while others are a curious throwback to the 1950s (there is an avocado and shrimp Jello salad). Also included are mezze like muhammara and besara along with guacamole and aioli. A very good guide to “the prop cupboard” includes homemade sprinkles and crunchies, edible flowers, and fancy carving. In Sally’s usual writing style, you’ll find witty stories, food lore, and titles (“yam, ham, and thank you ma’am”) to amuse and inform. I’m usually averse to salads (I find myself eating the toppings and leaving the greens), but this changed my outlook with the many tasty, international takes on what constitutes “salad.”
The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook (Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge) I had the great pleasure of meeting Josh and Brent at one of their Central Market appearances this fall, where they cooked their way through several of the delicious dishes featured in their latest book. This time, the Beekman Boys focus on making the most of farm-fresh seasonal veggies, sometimes through updates on comfort foods or in new and whimsical presentations. Recipes include summer vegetable flans, grilled beet salad with ricotta, watercress, and almonds, fried lemons and candied fennel, caramelized onion and potato hand pies, roasted cauliflower “steaks” with orange – olive sauce, beet chocolate cake with candied beet topping, date and winter squash salad with pistachios, and okonomiyaki with shrimp. Most recipes feature a tidbit featuring helpful hints or history about a featured ingredient. Like their first book, vintage seed packets and illustrations feature prominently, and each recipe has a space for writing notes. Paulette Tavormina’s stunning photography jumps off the page, catapulting veggies from mere ingredient to art. Like their other cookbooks, this is super-fun to cook from and the results speak for themselves!
Mason Jar Salads (Julia Mirabella)This deceptively slim little book (“salad magic in a mason jar”) has revitalized my lunches! You’ll find 50 ideas on layered salads, pastas, etc. that are made to fit in small Mason jars, making them portable (and you can also prepare a week’s worth of salads in advance; simply flip the jar over to shake and distribute the dressing). Salads include pomegranate and pear, pesto tortellini with cherry tomatoes, spinach, blueberry and blue cheese salad, a BLT panzanella, porcini mushroom risotto, even green smoothies and steel-cut oatmeal. It’s a fun, portable, and economical way to enjoy bringing your lunches to work and makes salads fun again!
Dairy / Cheese
One-Hour Cheese I’d taken a ricotta and mozzarella class a couple of years ago and hadn’t given cheesemaking at home a second thought until I saw “One-Hour Cheese.” I don’t know what possessed me to run out and purchase it (and a bunch of goat’s milk, vegetarian rennet and cheesecloth), but I’m so glad I did! I’ve had so much fun learning how to make my own cheeses at home in an hour or less; so far, I’ve made several of the basic recipes including the Meyer lemon ricotta, chevre French kisses, and chivo fresco. I love that each basic cheese recipe comes with suggested variations on types of milk and recipes using that particular cheese as base (including no-bake cheese tartlets, a Mexican banh mi, and cheese stacks and kebabs). I’m still working up the courage to make mozzarella using the microwave method, and have my eye on the brown butter burrata too. Fancier variations include leaf-wrapped cheese, homemade ravioli, pinwheels, a guide to edible flowers and herbs, and a DIY cheese platter (including how to doctor up store-bought goodies; I won’t tell if you don’t!). 15-minute recipes and formulas for custom pairings that can be thrown together at a moment’s notice (spicy figs in red wine, Spanish olive and tomato tapenade, mocktails). Finally, there are bonus DIY dairy essentials on homemade ghee, butter (remember the “shake the cream in a jar” experiment from grade school? That’s in here too!), and making yogurt at home. I’m only sorry that I didn’t discover the joys of homemade cheeses sooner!
Creamery Kitchen Jenny Linford’s “Creamery Kitchen” is the perfect complement to “One-Hour Cheese” as it focuses on soft cheeses, including homemade crème fraiche and mascarpone. Starting with simple yet delicious flavored butters (fennel, caramelized, piquant, fragrant spice, rose, and saffron butters), you’ll find a chilled cucumber and mint soup with parmesan crisps that is perfect for a sweltering summer day, elegant beetroot latkes with smoked salmon and crème fraiche, asparagus, pea and labneh salad, not one but two variations of the classic Balkan burek, ricotta and spinach dumplings, cheesecakes, and even spaghetti with gorgonzola, pecan and mascarpone sauce. The recipes are straightforward and come together quickly with impressive results. (see my full review here)
Baking / Pastry
10 Mid-East Inspired Sweets: Contemporary Twists on Classic Treats (e-book; direct purchase link here) (Faith Gorsky of An Edible Mosaic) 10 Mid-East Inspired Sweet Treats: Contemporary Twists on Classic Treats is only $4. It is the best $4 you will ever spend. Having spent a fair amount of time in Syria with her husband and his family (she learned to cook Middle Eastern food from her Syrian mother-in-law), Faith has chosen to donate all funds raised from the e-book to helping the children of Syria get essential supplies, medicine, and clean water through UNICEF. The ten recipes pair perfectly with many of my other top cookbook picks here; you’ll find cardamom-spiced mocha truffles, a tiny triple-layer pistachio rose cake with honeyed buttercream, creamy rose and orange blossom-scented pudding pops, and flaky pastries with cream filling that are a perfect ending to meals from “Persiana,” “Comptoir Express,” “Istanbul,” or “A Change of Appetite.” Plus the photography is gorgeous, rich with Eastern ceramics, elegant coffee pots and snapshots of pre-civil-war Syria. As Faith puts it, “With my whole heart, I dedicate this little e-book to Syria. To her people and history. To her cuisine and culture. To her past and future. May she see better days ahead, and until then, may the enjoyment of Syrian food keep her memory alive in our hearts.”
Joy the Baker Homemade Decadence (Joy Wilson) I only learned of Joy Wilson earlier this year (my best friend is an admin of a “Joy the Baker” group as well as a recipe tester), but was super-excited for her new release. Joy’s new book is hardcover and the design deserves special mention. I love everything about this book, particularly the breakfast dishes like pear, dark chocolate and ginger scones, Hawaiian sweet pineapple breakfast rolls, grilled cheese with ham and cherry jam, breakfast nachos and pizza; this is a breakfast lover’s delight. However, that’s not to say that baked goods don’t get any love… you’ll find dark chocolate, pistachio and smoked sea salt cookies, a fantastic assortment of pies, brown sugar-rosemary cheesecake, maple orange and ginger cream cheese cake, layer cakes, chocolate pound cake, and some amazing ice creams (rosewater ice cream with pistachios, salted dark chocolate and orange, blueberry-goat cheese, rum apricot, and pumpkin spice) and frozen desserts (strawberry-rose sangria granita, strawberry balsamic pops, sweet coffee and fresh fig pops).
The Messy Baker Despite several high-profile baking releases this year, for sheer fun and usability “The Messy Baker” gets my vote! 75 recipes are divided by “Pastry, Flaky, Crumbly, Dippable, Sloppy, Smudgy, Gritty, and Drippy” (sort of sounds like dwarves that didn’t make the Snow White cut!), from phyllo-based recipes like sweet potato samosas and spanakopita to palmiers to stuffed tomato, arugula, and cilantro focaccia, espresso and hazelnut biscotti, ginger-crusted strawberry mascarpone tart, chocolate orange gingersnap drops, and dill zucchini fritters with lemon tzatziki. Clear instructions and a handy guide to emergency substitutions mean that anyone can be a baker!
Scandinavian Baking (Trine Hahnemann) (UK edition – metric) For the last several years, I’ve been obsessed with Scandinavian baking and have purchased numerous cookbooks focusing on that subject. Trine’s latest book focuses on “authentic Scandinavian recipes with a modern twist, shot on location in Scandinavia.” Here you’ll find multitudes of Danish pastries, cakes, and cream buns in addition to hearty rye breads, crispbreads, Christmas bakes and Scandinavian jams. The gorgeous photos and flavor profiles make me want to bake my way through this in the coming year – there are so many appealing tarts, kringles, buns, layer cakes and pastries to choose from!
Sugar Rush Johnny Iuzzini, winner of the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef and recognized as one of the 10 Most Influential Pastry Chefs in America by Forbes, delivers a home run with his second cookbook. “Sugar Rush” (with an introduction by Dorie Greenspan) is a fantastic primer for all aspiring pastry chefs and home bakers. Approachable and gorgeously photographed, each chapter opens with a mother recipe complete with step-by-step photos demonstrating the proper technique, then you are given numerous opportunities to try out your new skills on a tempting array of desserts in the same family. His flavor combinations are appealing and inventive, including banana fritters with tahini caramel cream, chocolate sesame seed cake, and a root cake features parsnips and carrots. One of the standouts for me was his apricot custard tart, made with almond flour and pistachios. Impressive yet fairly straightforward to assemble, this is a showstopping dessert made with a few simple ingredients. Another instant favorite is the spicy malted chocolate chipotle brownies; dense and fudgy, a sprinkling of Demerara sugar lends crunch, while chipotle, smoked paprika, and cayenne provide a hit of heat and depth. If you are at all interested in baking / pastry, this is one book you need to have in your collection. (see my full review here)
A La Mere De Famille This beautiful book (it wins for best cover, too!) slipped onto the scene without much fanfare. À la Mère de Famille has been a Paris institution for 250 years, with their gorgeous confections (candied fruits, brittles, hard candies, etc.) and baked goods. This delightfully retro cookbook (an English translation) is all-around fun, with line art and interviews with regulars offset by gorgeous food photography and fascinating historical footnotes. The recipes range from cakes (which in French is a small quick bread suitable for snacking), madeleines, financiers, and biscuits / macarons to whimsical chocolate creations and decadent chocolate barks (my favorite is the Biarritz waves; I traveled through Biarritz on my way to Paris), homemade marshmallows (which have caught on in France), hard candies and nougats, pate de fruits and candied fruits, syrups and jams, and frozen desserts – not just a taste of classical French pastry, but with some fun additions thrown in like the pistachio ice pops with chopped calissons, mango passion fruit pate de fruits, and whimsical chocolate-mendicant lollipops (I have fond memories of my first mendiants purchased from an upscale shop in Sarlat).